Despite much information to the contrary, many people just never get around to making a will. Perhaps they mistakenly feel that their estate was too small or they were just intimidated by the process. One major misconception is that if you don't have a will, there will be no need for probate. This is not only incorrect, but could cause probate to be a lot more complicated than it would be if there was a will to probate. Read on to find out more about how an estate is handled when someones dies intestate.
Letting Strangers Control the Estate
A will is about more than just naming beneficiaries, one of the major functions of the will is to name a trusted friend or loved one to administer and control the will during the probate process. An executor, or personal representative, ensures that everything goes smoothly, from the burial plans, to the valuation of property, to paying the bills of the estate to distributing property according to the wishes stated in the will. In the absence of an executor, the state will appoint someone to do the job. This appointee may be a surviving spouse, then the adult children of the deceased starting with the oldest child. Other blood relatives are considered in order of relationship to the deceased.
When you fail to have a say in how your estate will be handled, your state of residency will use their own particular laws about how to distribute your property. In most cases, the spouse will automatically inherit the estate unless they are incapacitated. If there is no spouse, the adult children will equally divide the estate. In the absence of children, other blood relatives are next in line, such as siblings of the deceased. No other provisions can be made, so if you want to honor a charity or organization with a bequeath, you must do so in a will.
A Will May Not Be Necessary
It should be noted that a will is not the only way to plan an estate. There are a number of instruments available to deal with your estate that are actually superior to a will.
- Life insurance: you can name beneficiaries to be paid upon your death.
- Trusts: similar to a will in the manner that you name certain property to be given to certain people upon your death.
- Payable-on-death: you can add designations to bank and investment accounts that allow the passing of these assets directly to named recipients after your death, with no need for any of it to pass through probate.
Speak with an estate attorney firm, such as Ritter & LeClere APC Attorneys At Law, to learn more about will and other estate planning tools.